I recently came across an interesting site which is dubbed the “Anti-Google”. Daniel Brandt has been running his own search engine called Scroogle for just over three years. Scroogle carries no advertising and relies on small donations from users. Scroogle’s traffic has doubled every year and now attracts over 100,000 visitors a day. The popularity and growth of this search engine has been attributed to one factor: Privacy.
Scroogle keeps no record of who is using its site or what they are looking for. Within an hour of using the site, the search terms are gone forever. Many of the big search engines have taken notice and have been tightening up their privacy policies. Ask.com has recently offered a new service called “Ask Eraser” which will wipe out a searcher’s queries within hours.
Google has often been criticized for collecting and storing personal user information. Google and MSN’s search engines both store personal information for 18 months. Yahoo and AOL retain search requests for 13 months. This information can be used in a court of law. Storing this info has proved useful for catching online criminals, but often times the personal information is exploited. Divorce lawyers have been known to subpoena search-engine firms looking for dirt on warring spouses. This is why many searchers have become savvy and have chosen to use search engines that keep this personal information private.
The increase of Scroogle and similar proxy type search engines is a concerning issue for SEM and Google advertisers. The search results on these engines do not show any ads. While only a small number of people currently use these engines, the number is apt to increase unless Google and the big engines start to take user privacy into more serious consideration.